Tasmanian Devil Facts

Posted: 22 May 2023

What is a Tasmanian Devil?

The Tasmanian Devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. About the size of a small dog, they are characterized by their stocky, muscular build, black fur, pungent odor and keen sense of smell. Their large head and neck allow them to generate a strong bite for their size, which comes in handy when they hunt for prey and feed on carrion.

Where do Tasmanian Devils live?

Until recently, Tasmanian Devils were only found on the island state of Tasmania, but recently it has been reintroduced to mainland Australia, with a small breeding population in New South Wales. In Tasmania, they can be found in numbers in wildlife parks such as Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart City and in the wild they can be found in open forests and woodlands.

Tasmanian Devil 3 credit Jess Bonde 138298 56Image Credit: Jess Bonde

Tasmanian Devil Fact 1. They make a loud murderous screech

The reason Tasmanian ‘Devils’ earned their name was because of the sound they make. When European settlers first landed on Tasmania, they began to hear unearthly shrieks and growls coming from deep within the bush, making them feel as if they were surrounded by hidden demons. It turns out that these sounds were coming from Tasmanian Devils. These animals make all sorts of sounds such as coughs, growls, screeches and snorts in order to scare off other animals.

Tasmanian Devil Fact 2. They have bone-crushing powerful bites

As mentioned, Tasmanian Devils have large heads for their size. This allows them to open their jaws up to 80 degrees wide, which gives them the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. Their jaws carry enough bite force to bite through metal cages and even crush bone. Because of this ability, Tasmanian Devils rarely leave anything leftover of the carcasses they feed on.

Tasmanian Devil Fact 3. They are known for their vicious yawn

While Tasmanian Devils are not dangerous to people, when they feel threatened they perform a strange yawn that can look quite fierce. However, this display is actually more a display of fear than of aggression.

Tasmanian Devil 1 credit Tourism Tasmania Rob Burnett 127714 56Image credit: Tourism Tasmania & Rob Burnett

Tasmanian Devil Fact 4. They store fat in their tails

As with all marsupials, Tasmanian Devils store fat in their tails. Their body can draw out energy and nutrients from their tail when food is scarce. A chubby tail indicates a healthy and well-fed Tasmanian Devil, while a thin tail can tell you when a Tasmanian Devil is potentially malnourished.

Tasmanian Devil Fact 5. They are great at climbing trees

Aside from being great swimmers and fast runners, Tasmanian Devils are excellent tree-climbers. Their front legs are longer than their back legs, and using their large footpads on their back legs to create friction stops them sliding back or off from a tree trunk. In particular, younger Tasmanian Devils are much more agile than their elders and are much more adept at climbing trees. This is a skill that young Tasmanian Devils develop as a means to escape their elders, who have been known to eat young devils when food is scarce.

Tasmanian Devil Fact 6. They sleep in the carcases of their prey

Though a tad macabre, Tasmanian Devils have a habit of falling asleep inside the rotting carcasses of the animals they’re feeding on. They do this so as to protect their food as well as so they can wake up and continue eating. This is important, as by eating animal carcasses, Tasmanian Devils help to keep areas free of blowfly maggots.

Tasmanian Devil Fact 7. They are important to the ecosystem

Aside from keeping the maggots at bay, Tasmanian Devils offer a lot of benefits to their ecosystem. Their hunting habits control the population of sick animals as well as feral cats in Tasmania, which in turn helps protect our native birds. They also have the potential to make it difficult for other introduced species, such as foxes, to breed. Their keen sense of smell would make it easy for them to detect fox dens, meaning the reintroduction of Tasmanian Devils on the mainland could help to control the population of foxes in Australia.

Tasmanian Devil Fact 8. When born they are the size of a rice grain

A mother Tasmanian Devil will give birth to around 20-40 joeys at once. As Tasmanian Devils are not that large and their pouches are smaller still, you can imagine that joeys would have to be pretty small to fit that many in such a small pouch. Each joey is no larger than the size of a grain of rice. From birth, the surviving joeys of the litter will spend up to 3 months in their mother’s pouch before leaving.

Tasmanian Devil joey credit Jewels Lynch 133512 56Image Credit: Jewels Lynch

Tasmanian Devil Fact 9. Their teeth never stop growing

Tasmanian Devils have the same number of teeth as a dog (42). However, unlike a dog, a Tasmanian Devil’s teeth never stop growing throughout its lifetime. These unique teeth allow Tasmanian Devils to consume every part of their prey, bones and all.

Tasmanian Devil Fact 10. They are endangered

Since 2008, Tasmanian Devils have been considered to be an endangered species. The primary reasons for the decline in their population is car collisions when they attempt to feed on roadkill, as well as Devil Facial Tumour Disease. This highly infectious cancerous tumour usually appears around the Devil’s mouth, face and neck, and the animal will die within three to six months of its appearance. There are several wildlife parks in Tasmania dedicated to the protection of Tasmanian Devils and the conservation organization Aussie Ark has recently reintroduced Tasmanian Devils into a national park in New South Wales, marking the first time in 3000 years that the animals have roamed the mainland.

How AAT Kings Is Supporting Endangered Tasmanian Devils

In conjunction with the TreadRight Foundation, AAT Kings support the work done at the University of Tasmania to develop a vaccine to ensure the population of Tasmanian devils can thrive disease-free in the wild. AAT Kings is also committed to only offering ethical wildlife experiences on our trips guided by TreadRight’s Animal Welfare Policy to support a tourism industry free of animal cruelty.

Observe these elusive animals on one of our Perfect Tasmania, Tassie’s Wilderness Icons or Tassie’s Parks and Nature optional experiences. On the Tasmanian Devils tour at Cradle Mountain one of the experienced keepers will lead you through the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary and provide you with a thorough insight into the operation of a working sanctuary, and explain the importance of various conservation programs that they are involved in for these unique and threatened animals. The Tasmanian Devils After Dark Feeding Tour at Cradle Mountain lets you explore a large breeding group of Tasmanian Devils where the guide will enter the enclosures and feed a number of these animals whilst interpreting their behaviour and answering any questions you may have.

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By AAT Kings


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